THOMASTOWN paddlers have dipped their oars into the rivers that meander through the city and county for over two decades.
Generations who have grown up on the bank of the Barrow and the Nore have learned to love, respect and create great sport through the club which encourages both recreational paddling and competitve racing.
On a not so warm summer’s evening I ventured down to the banks of the Nore in Bennettsbridge where I was met by two of the club’s most enthusiastic and active members. Donnacha Brennan has been involved with the club for the past 13 years.
“There are great rivers in the county for paddling. There are several different grades of water around and there is plenty of water that is safe for begineers. There are also tough courses for more experienced paddlers. After rain it is challenging going from the Kings River from Kells to Thomastown as it is tight and narrow,” he said.
“The club is up and running for 16 or 17 years. It was set up by Sim Treacey, Tony Stapleton and Jim Ryan who all had an avid interest in canoeing. I suppose the club stemmed from a group of people who all shared a love of canoeing and used to meet up together and go out on the river. Back in the 1980’s there was a number of small groups from the Nore Valley who used to meet up and go out on the river. There was a club called the Nore Canoe Club but over time that amalgamated with the Paddlers,” he added.
Paddling or canoeing with the club is accessible to all, the only condition being that you can swim and the club run introductory courses throughout the summer. “We provide all the gear and the equipment. At the moment we have around 70 members and they range in age from ten years to members in their sixties. During the summer we do recreational kayaking every Tuesday when we meet in Thomastown. We also do trips to Inistioge and Graignamanagh and go out on the Barrow. We welcome people of all levels,” said Donnacha. In the winter members meet once a week and also use an indoor gym in their clubhouse. “We compete at marathon and sprint events. There are 12 races during the summer season and it is run on a league basis with a points tally at the end. A lot of our members just paddle for fun but there is a competitive element for those who want that and there is a good representation from the club on international teams,” he added.
Donnacha’s brother, Michael (25) is going to the world wild water championships in France in June. “I supposed that is how I got into it through my brother. I was playing hurling and soccer and when Michael started on the kayaking he needed a second person one day and I hopping into a two-man boat and that was it. I kept the soccer up for a while but now it is all kayaking. There is a thrill in pushing yourself fast and being able to compete on an individual level and in a boat. We have also started playing canoe polo which is like basketball in the water. It is five a side and the goals dangle about eight feet above the water. It is great fun,” he said.
Kieran Varley from Danesfort who also paddles competitively said that it is a ‘unbelievable form of fitness’. “It is great to be out in nature, so far away from everything. You just focus on your paddling and your worries disappear. It is amazing all the wildlife and the amount of otters that you would meet. It is like a new adventure everytime you go out. There is great banter between the members and we all look out for each other,” he said. For more information see www.thomastownpaddlers.com